Rookie Céline Boutier shrugged off back-to-back bogeys to fire a three-under 69 and take a one shot lead into Sunday’s final round of the Sanya Ladies Open at Yalong Bay Golf Club on Hainan Island, China.
The 24-year-old Frenchwoman, who has earned full U.S. LPGA playing rights for 2018 by virtue of two wins on the satellite Symetra Tour this year, was joint leader after round one and cruising to a comfortable lead until she stumbled on 15 and 16, giving the rest of the field hope.
Iceland’s Valdis Thora Jonsdottir matched Boutier’s 69 to take sole command of second, while Thai Prima Thammaraks is a shot further behind.
“I’m just a little frustrated because I started off pretty well and had two birdies in the last five holes, so that was tough,” said Boutier, a Paris native who attended university in the United States.
“I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to play for the win tomorrow, and I’m going to do my best.”
The eighth edition of the Sanya Ladies Open, sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour, the Asian Ladies Golf Tour and the China Ladies Professional Golf Association, is one of the highlights of the circuit and the international field has enjoyed the tropical weather on Hainan Island.
The picturesque 7,189-yard (6,754-metre) Yalong Bay Golf Club course is dotted with 98 deadly bunkers and sliced through by a meandering river that also adds to the treachery. Shaped like a dragon’s claw, the course is hemmed in by lush green hills and the beautiful Yalong Bay, all combining to form a stunning setting.
Despite three three-putts, Jonsdottir said she was happy with the flat stick in a round that boasted seven birdies and four bogeys.
“The greens are a bit tricky and you need to know where the grain goes so it’s good to have a local caddie who can read the greens,” she said.
Needing a good result to keep her card on the LET for 2018, Jonsdottir said her focus was on a good finish.
“That’s the main goal. I would like to see a win and I’ll go in hungry to the final round tomorrow.”
There is a bigger incentive, however.
The winner at Yalong Bay gets an automatic invite to the Evian Championship, a Ladies Golf Major, and that prize was firmly in the thoughts of Thammaraks -- who is two shots off the pace and used a touch of local superstition to help her to solo third place.
“I remembered in the practise round, my friend told me to rub the turtle head on the bridge (by hole eight) for good luck, so I did that ... and I made two birdies.
“My luck turned, but I’m going to work on my putting. I had 30 putts and yesterday was 26. If I had made some more short putts it would have been a really great day.”
Defending champion Supamas Sangchan moved up the field to be four shots off the lead after a two-under 70, alongside two-time winner Lee-Anne Pace from South Africa who fired a 73.
Credit- Ladies European Tour
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